(Right now, I’m focusing on my memoirist work that I’ll call, simply, “Pictures of Tommy” -- all about my psychotic brother and his legacy. If so inclined, please share, and tell me what you think. . . )
I heard about Janis Joplin’s death one morning, on the radio, before walking to the bus to school. My footsteps heavy, I mechanically put one foot in front of the other on the walk up Douglaston Parkway to the city bus, the Q-17. How could that have happened? How could my hero, Janis, have died?
Janis was cool, she sang great, dressed cool, was beautiful in my eyes. So what if she wasn’t Twiggy? She had such great power and beauty. I was only fifteen, but her lifestyle -- being able to take lovers and be free, free of old morals, free onstage, free in every way -- enchanted me. I loved hippies and “freeks.” I lived among conservative bourgeois folk, straight-laced Catholics, good Catholic girls and nuns at the school my parents wanted me to attend, Bishop Reilly High School. I hated Bishop Reilly and all it stood for. The boys had their own wing on the other side of the school, but we weren’t to mix with them.
So of course, I did. I snuck to the boys’ side after school and flirted, subtly. I mean, WWJD? (What Would Janis Do?)
The whole day after the death of Janis Joplin, I dragassed around ol’ Bishop Reilly High School, pondering why. Why did such an awesome person have to die? I knew Janis would have understood how I felt, so unwanted, so alone, and so “different,” too. None of the other girls seemed to care, and that made me feel so, so alienated. On my walk home from the bus, I sang a Melanie song in memory of Janis, “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain),” putting all my pain and rage into the lyrics.
I had no idea what brother Tom was thinking because there was no communication with him, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t care about a crazy hippie singer like Janis. He would listen to Buffalo Springfield and Cream, and this young guitar hero, Eric Clapton. But, even when he was home, we hardly ever talked. Both of us were wrapped up in private thoughts, dreams, concerns.
And for me, getting high and hanging with boys started to take over my life, pretty quickly, once our home life tore apart. . .